Making ourselves happy

I just got off recording a podcast which was focused on AI and sci-fi. Not my favorite topics. Reminded me of a moment in the excellent Déclin de l’Empire Américain (1986).

Ce qui veut dire qu’un mariage réussi n’a rien à voir avec le bonheur personnel de deux individus mariés ensemble. À la limite, la question ne se pose même pas. Comme si une société en développement se préoccupait davantage du bien collectif ou d’un bonheur hypothétique futur plutôt que de satisfactions individuelles immédiates. […] Et je pose la question paradoxale : cette volonté exacerbée de bonheur individuel que nous observons maintenant dans nos sociétés n’est-elle pas, en fin de compte, historiquement liée au déclin de l’empire américain que nous avons commencé à vivre ?

I’ll attempt a translation.

‘ This means that marriage has nothing to do with the personal happiness of the two married individuals. Actually it’s as if the question doesn’t even come up. As if a developing society is more concerned with collective happiness or a hypothetical future happiness than immediate individual  satisfactions […] And I ask the paradoxical question: isn’t this focus on individual happiness that we now observe in our society today, in the end, historically linked to the decline of the american empire which we have started to experience?’

It came to me as we discussed progress, innovation and ways of making our individual lives more effective, efficient, full of personal happiness and fulfilment. It’s harder to care about others, what we have to engage with collectively. Easier to shave off seconds from cooking or booking experience. So we have more time to check Facebook perhaps.

How to get people to make things for you

We’re a week away from the deadline for the Smart Oxford Challenge and I was asked if this was a hackathon. That expression and the format it has come to represent gives me the heeby-jeebies so I wanted to share why, and what makes the Challenge different.  This is coming from ten years of organising events around the internet of things (up to 60 attendees on average) as well as being a producer for the Mozilla Festival during it’s first 2 years in London (600-800 attendees).

What is a hackathon?

Generally speaking this is the format of a “classic” hackathon (obviously there are variations):

  • A company sets a theme
  • Developers are invited to take a day or two (often on a weekend) of their time to address that theme and build prototypes
  • Pizza is dished out
  • A judging panel arrives at the end of the event and teams pitch
  • There may be a prize at the end of it for the “winner”

What’s good about this?

  • This might give developers some dedicated time to work on something they’ve been interested in and not had the time to work on because of other work commitments.
  • This acts as an easy networking opportunity for developers.
  • On a good day, they may take the work they’ve done during the hackathon and quit their day job and work the idea into a company.

What’s wrong with this?

  • The theme is there because the business has a problem it could probably address by hiring a small number of the right experts.
  • If the problem is artificial, then it’s a marketing exercise. As long as its clear to attendees and the business that’s fine, but it’s rarely clear.
  • Developers are highly paid professionals who care about the work they do. Asking them to spend unpaid time on someone else’s problem is hard especially if the event is on the weekend and they have a family.  This may work if they are young and looking for freelance work but the good freelance developers I know would run a mile.
  • There isn’t usually a clear IP situation. Who owns the work done?  If this isn’t clear you can be sure that the best idea will not be developed on the day and will be squirrelled away by the developer to work on independently.
  • The food is terrible, and usually doesn’t cater to allergies and intolerances. This puts everyone in a bad mood. Productivity and happiness will always be affected by food, unless you’re on Soylent (barf).
  • Offering a prize is tacky and problematic if it’s a low cash prize or an iPad. It’s a weak symbol of your appreciation. If anything, something more interesting (box tickets for a sports event or a trip somewhere) would go a long way.

So how do you do this differently?

There are in my experience two routes to the development of good ideas by smart people: pay smart people to look at what you’re doing and tell you what they think / build alternatives or support smart people in developing their existing ideas.

1. Pay smart people to look at what you’re doing and tell you what they think

No this isn’t about getting a management consultant in. This is about exposing a small but diverse group of people (less than 15 ideally) to what you’re doing as a business and work in teams (2-3 no more) to work out better ways of doing it. The duration of the exercise depends what kinds of results you want. The higher the resolution of the response (functional prototypes etc), the more time and materials you’ll need. I wouldn’t push beyond a week though. They’ll have other things to do with their time :) But everyone is paid and happy to be there and they meet and work with people they’ve not worked with before. This group of people can come outside the business or all over your business. As long as they are all coming at the problem from different spaces this will work. I’ve worked like this with clients like EDF, American Express and the British Standards Institute.

2. Support smart people in developing their existing ideas

There are so many startups who need help at various levels especially when it comes to #iot. I started thinking about how to really help them as I was encountering all sorts of problems with Good Night Lamp and finding it difficult to get expert advice for little money. I started by organising a showcase for British Gas two years ago where over 60 startups were able to show their products to the British Gas venture team and management. There were some cash prizes for the top 3 but that wasn’t really the point. The startups were able to meet others like them who shared similar challenges in the tricky business of energy-based #iot solutions. Last year, I helped the Digital Catapult scope the best ways to help #iot startups and ended up running a pilot event called Boost.    Ten experts were invited to offer 30 minute clinics to startups and discuss their problems. We ended the day with nibbles and a showcase. This was a great event but I thought I’d missed a trick.

The Smart Oxford Challenge borrows heavily from that model and will see selected smart cities teams and individuals come and spend time with experts on topics which they have identified and at the end of the day, they will get to meet city officials and pitch their idea. This is really to not only support and help but help champion and open doors for startups. Building a community around what a business does has to be about opening doors over a short period of time (the event is one day) with no strings attached (the event is free and no equity or IP is at play). Only then can it start to understand what are the challenges of startups and how they can help best. And for clients with R&D departments interested in new areas like the internet of things, this is useful model to gauge where your research should lead you if you try to productise it.

HOME/SICK : the new nature of things in a connected world

I was asked some months ago by the Science Gallery in Dublin to join the curation team to help choose pieces for the HOME/SICK exhibition which is opening to the public tomorrow. We were presented with a number of artworks which would fit within traditional boundaries such as sculpture, architecture, video work, paintings but the team had a desire to introduce more smart objects in the mix. But how do you show connected objects which say something without only selling something? As the industry of connected products (or #iot if you’re on Twitter) progresses, so do commercial success stories. But you can’t just put a Nest thermostat on display. It wouldn’t add to the discourse, it just is. Neither can you show work that would suffer from Julian’s 15 criteria for interactive art (which, even if written in 2008, still rings true). Tricky business.

And there’s the theme of the exhibition of course. HOME/SICK reminds us of the growing pains that consumers are experiencing buying into the idea of a smart home and smart every day objects (I’m obviously guilty of this myself with the Good Night Lamp). It also points to the diminishing space within our homes where advertising and constant engagement is impossible. The bedroom? Ha! Laptops, mobile phones, smart beds, smart bracelets, heart monitors, it’s all there. Living alongside people and their night life, or lack thereof.

We’re also moving away from home constantly. This could be benign like going off to university or moving to London for work. But it could also be that you are displaced because your country is at war or a natural distaster has struck. It could be you move for a new job opportunity or the love of our life. We are being encouraged to think of the world as global. This is of course bullshit. There is always a place to call home.

Talk to any immigrant and they’ll have a place they call home even if they take a flight a month for work. When we’re not at home, we’re in limbo. We adapt to our condition and we try to pretend we’re at home with this state. We make Aeropress coffee on airplanes, we bring our tea and cushion with us, we have favorite hotels, favorite coffee places, friends everywhere. We order english breakfast tea in Spain. We ship pies-in-a-tin to California. We bring back St-Viateur bagels in our suitcase. But it’s not home and no amount of technology can help us overcome that saudade.

The reality is also that sadly everything changes all the time. It’s one of life’s certainties. The home we lived in won’t stay that way forever (even Elvis’s birthplace was furnished with what his father remembered of the place some 30 years later). We hold on to home when it doesn’t hold on to us. Clubs close down. Cities experience gentrification. Buildings are demolished. Should technology help us bask in the past or should we grow up and realise that we have little to hold on to and that’s that?

Examining this would make for a fantastic GDS project  but in the meantime, go see the work of my colleagues and myself in Dublin, you won’t regret it. It’s all there, for you to think about what you are holding on to.

Hope, hydroelectricity and all the things that power work.

IMG_0655

My adoptive father Marcel was diagnosed with prostate cancer 10 years ago. Last February my adoptive mom (a retired breast cancer nurse) called me and informed me that his cancer was now metastatic which meant a switch to hormone therapy. So in the midst of shipping my first batch of Good Night Lamps (which was delayed in production) I went home to see them.

I’ve known him and my adoptive family since I was 18 and he has had a profound effect on my personal and professional life.

He’s retired now but during his long career he was an engineering technician working on hydro-electric dam construction sites such as Manic-5. He finished his career managing budgets and teams for for large scale projects at Hydro-Québec. He always had an attitude that as a woman, I could do anything I wanted. When I had a horrible time with advanced maths at 19, he would tell me “you can do it” and “c’est just un mauvais moment à passer” which loosely translates as “this is a short-lived pain”. I’ve kept that in my mind every time I had a difficult time. When I closed my first business five years ago. When I failed to find funding for the Good Night Lamp two years ago and I was heavily in debt. And also these days, as I power through the shipping of my first batch to customers all across Europe and continue to work as a consultant.

I’m thankful every day that I have them in my life, even if geographic location separates us. The Good Night Lamp always has been for them. There is no better personal motivation for me but to continue to do well, make them proud and support them in any way I can which now means supporting the people who can make a medical different to him. So I will be donating 10% of my paid work to Prostate Cancer Canada‘s research efforts.

What he is going through now isn’t short-lived. He will have to fight this for the rest of his life. But perhaps one day, I will be able to tell him too that the pain will be short-lived. It’s a dangerous hope, but without hope, we have nothing.

Placebos, invisibility & just enough information: a long term informal study of wearables

Last November, after a month away for client work and visiting family in New Zealand & Australia I decided to buy an activity tracker. When at home in London I can clock 10K of walking easily. When I’m travelling, all activity ceases. So I wanted to try out a so-called “wearable”. I did what ever normal consumer might do and went to John Lewis. After looking around for some time, I eventually found a little locked glass cabinet with the FitBit and the Misfit. A young male staff member tried to sell me a turquoise blue Misfit as “women preferred it”. I rolled my eyes and bought the black one. I’ve now been wearing it on my wrist for over 6 months, probably a record by some standards. Here’s what I’ve learnt.

misfit

1. The design is invisible *enough*

I’ve never felt that wearing it was perceived as weird and it mostly stayed hidden under a sleeve. Noone ever asked me about it. That was good. With the incoming British summer, we’ll see if I get more questions. It’s functionality is basically invisible as you have to tap it to get your activity level.

2. End of the day report with no internet

I have basically ignored Misfit most of the day until I reach the end of the day and then double tap it to get the LEDs light up. If I’ve done well I’m happy, if I haven’t, well I might put a bit less food in my plate that night. I almost never use the app because really, seeing how I’ve done every day hasn’t really been useful and I wasn’t interested in entering lots of lots of other data. So in a way this is a better designed pedometer for me and not much more.

3. Placebo

A lot of what people have talked about when talking about wearables is that it influences their daily decision-making. They might walk up the escalator, etc. I think it’s been more subtle for me. I think I’ve been mostly more aware of the activity (mostly walking) that I do and getting a little bit more pleasure out of it, instead of taking it as part of daily life. That’s been fun and has kept me going.

4. Opportunity landscape

In a way, it’s a shame though that the internet piece of this product isn’t as exciting as the product design itself. I don’t think it’s a case that they’ve spent less time on it, but they basically don’t give me a good excuse to give them data. Perhaps the future of some of these devices might be that the internet piece constantly changes or even dies, but that’s ok because the product works on its own, without the internet. It’s far better than something that doesn’t work if the internet bit doesn’t and you end up throwing it away. It’s hard and I’m discovering how hard with the Good Night Lamp. But it’s got to be considered. Would I have accepted to pay £79 if I was buying a pedometer, no. But I did.

 

February

A list of what we’re up to at the moment:

– We’re working with a very large client at the moment helping them plan and find partners for a hardware project. Hopefully more on that in the next months.

– We’ve been giving SevenLeague a bit of advice on an exciting project they have for one of their sports clients.

– Starting soon we’ll be helping Wintec Research Institute build a presence in the UK over the next six months. They have fantastic research facilities around smart farming, wearables & human performance and have 8 smart homes equipped with over 800 sensors each so an exciting opportunity.

– We started a monthly paid for #iot trends report called The Imaginary Unit with Peter Bihr and Patrick Tanguay. This should help some of those senior executives struggling to understand the internet of things.

– We’ll be delivering the third IOTAngels Master Class hosted at the Digital Catapult next week. These tend to be really small intimate events, but investors appreciate the attention and time to have a good conversation.

Cards 17

– We’re helping Tina Aspiala run a workshop for Know Cards in London on March 6th. This is a really exciting tool for planning #iot projects before you start buying things.  Come along, it’s $95 and includes a Complete Pack which is worth $149.

iwd_header_2015

– We’ve also been organising the third edition of Tech City International Women’s Day Showcase. It’s a fundraising event for a Hackney charity that helps women and children in abusive homes. We’ll be showcasing women’s work in technology and the creative industies, so come along and get a ticket! We’ll feed you well. We’re also looking for sponsors to cover the cost of doing the event, so shout if you’d like to help!

dj_t-shirt_undercover_white

– As a bit of fun as as I’m a bit of a jive aficionado (a very easy partner dance from the 1950s)  I designed a t-shirt for Diamond Jive, the group running classes and club nights I’ve been attending.

– Finally the first batch of the Good Night Lamp is slowly coming together and I’ll be hand-assembling them in late Feb to deliver to our first customers across the UK & Europe for the first week of March. After 10 years on this project, this is very exciting.

gnl_2015_100set

The Internet of things for the common man & woman

I took part in the Digital Catapult Advisory Meeting this afternoon and we were presented an exam question: How do you sell #iot to the average man/woman?

Here’s my suggestions of things to say to people who ask this in the pub (note: this will possibly never happen):

Making sure your grandfather can stay healthy & independent in his own home longer because we can track his blood sugar level, whether he’s fallen, how long its been since he’s talked to someone else all remotely, engaging NHS, social care services and local communities at the right time. Don’t think about it as tracking, think about it as caring.

Support homeless children and adults and women in domestic abuse situations have access to help quicker because we know where they are when they need help with sensors and GPS tracking.

– Helping you and your children manage your asthma & allergies better because city councils can tell what the level of pollution is on busy streets with sensors attached to street lamps. So pedestrian only areas can be planned for, or transport alternative offered dynamically to you by apps like CityMapper.

Help improve your work environment and eyesight if you work with computers by measuring the environment you work in and your posture reminding you when to take breaks too.

Let you know quickly if your house is going to be flooded.

These are simple, but if we can’t convince people like my mother that the internet of things isn’t some kind of job-killing technology-driven-corporate-led move to destroy society, we’ll never get the support we need in the UK to innovate. If you have more, do add them to the comments!

 

Fear & loathing in the internet of things

I’ve been asked by BLN to come to Cambridge and give another talk at IOT Forum one of the best events on #iot in the world along with Thingscon. This’ll be my third time there and this blog post is I suppose the prep work for that talk. For the past 6 months, I’ve been seeing an interesting change of mood amongst internet of things commentators and could-be consumers. We started 2014 in such a positive light, CES was full of interesting new product ideas, “The Year of the Internet of Things” some said and Google had just bought Nest too! But then nothing else really happened. No really big consumer acquisitions were made, just B2B ones. And large corporations were latching on to one of the least credible, but sexier applications of connected technologies: wearables. So last month at CES we ended up with a show full of wearables and little excitement. Most consumers haven’t bought one yet and I’m sure they’re already tired of reading about them, even before the “Watch” comes out in April. When people don’t believe in something, they start nit picking. So for the past 4 months we’re being bombarded with the privacy, security & interoperability implications of connected products and how it’s all just a terrible idea. And quickly it’s clear that a wave of “meh” has just crashed onto technology journalists before anything really happened. So I thought I’d dissect this a little and give them reasons to care, still, about what may be emerging.

1. 10 reasons why the internet of things will fail…

…is the most common title for most articles, but this simply doesn’t work that way. Firstly, internet of things isn’t something that fails like a car runs out of batteries. It’s like saying that industrialisation is failing. “Some applications of connected technologies may not match user needs” may be a better way of describing it. When, in business school, we talk about 80% of SMEs failing within the first 2 years, we don’t question the environment they try to work in. So why should we say that the internet of things is an area not worth working in? It’s just another industry, where some will succeed and others will fail because they’ve understood how to develop a connected product that their customers want to buy. In so many ways, it’s really just business as usual, just with new technologies in the mix.

2. Only interoperability will make the internet of things succeed

This is sweet. If I walk into the average home, the only commonality is the fact that they all can be plugged into sockets, and some need batteries to operate. Every time I buy a television, I need a new remote for it, I can’t use the old one. There are plenty of examples of lack of interoperability that force consumers into buying more, discarding more.  We have created the perfect machine for mindless consumption which is what gets some organisations interested in the internet of things. Another way of selling more of their things, with hopefully minimal impact on manufacturing processes. So they join #iot consortiums and try to figure out how to interoperate with companies that aren’t competitors. That’s not what I want as a consumer. I want to be able to 3D print spare parts for my broken washing machine. I want an API for my dishwasher so I can actually tell how much water it uses versus hand washing. I want to be able to get a quote for a new boiler from the internal state of my existing boiler by pressing a button that will put a call out to builders in the area. I don’t want a smart home, I don’t want home automation, I want things that work better because they understand the digital ecology they now exist in. We don’t need interoperability to advance further, we need bolder, better user interactions and for large FMG and white goods manufacturers to take risks and offer more imaginative, open services. And yes technical interoperability will help but I really think it’s something a lot of companies are hiding behind while they craft their global product strategy.

3. Don’t wait for another Google. 

I wouldn’t wait for another Google acquisition in this space for a while or anyone big for that matter. People are sitting on their hands, waiting for the next Pebble. The rogue team that puts out a killer app. The best ideas I see are 2-3 people teams in the UK & Europe with no access to funding, just bootstrapping their way through the next few months. I just hope they can hold on for a little longer, the investment market will open up, as incubators start to specialise and design school programs get better connected to industry. I hope they just keep calm and carry on. Everyone’s eyes are on them after all.

4. Privacy!

Considering we can’t even begin to convince people to not use 12345 as a password online, I think we can assume we’ll have problems with any technology that introduces more passwords. So there, maybe we should go hide in the countryside where there’s no 3G or wifi. Or just assume shit will happen and prepare for it for when it does.

8th End of Year Review

A rather personal tradition on this blog, but one I’ve stuck to thanks to Molly Steenson who initiated this years before we met when this blog was my thesis project blog.

1.What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Spend a month away from London for work. That felt very weird.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I’m not sure what they were but they did involve staying fit which I’ve been doing thanks to Diamond Jive. This year though, I’d like to spend time with friends who are slowly leaving the country for far away, more profitable places.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not yet.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.

5. What countries did you visit?
Scotland, Germany, Finland, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Belgium, Canada

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2014?
Not much.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory?
March 8th.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Pushing through with the Good Night Lamp’s first batch which is now in production. Also putting on IOT Angels Master Classes. We’ve done two and our third is coming up. Working with the BBC R&D North Lab folks again, Nominet R&D & Digital Catapult. Some really talented people in those organisations.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Misjudging the shape of some work relationships.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A birthday meal at the River Café for me and my best friend.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Berg for closing Bergcloud and Little Printer. I’ve written about their amazing work. It made me sad but I think they should be recognised as pioneers in the wild. Who will catch them all!?

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Most airlines.

14. Where did most of your money go?
The Good Night Lamp (again and again)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Going back to dancing regularly thanks to Diamond Jive.

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2014?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
Happier.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
More writing and doodling in my sketchbooks. They’ve become to do lists this year.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Travelling.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
With loved ones.

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
F.

22. Did you fall in love in 2014?
See above.

23. What was your favourite TV programme?
I still don’t watch TV, maybe I should change this question.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
I’m great at starting books in parallel so started but haven’t finished and really enjoying

The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane
All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity by Marshall Berman
The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The War on Drugs, Future Islands, Blood Orange & Rodriguez

28. What did you want and get?
Opportunities to work with great people.

29. What did you want and not get?
Understand how to grow teams effectively. I’m still learning how to do that.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
I watched most films in airplanes and really enjoyed The One I Love, The Grand Budapest Hotel and discovered Pina.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 34 a few weeks ago, got a haircut, went to lunch and then to see Edward Scissorhands at Sadler’s Wells.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More time.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Retro.

34. What kept you sane?
Hanging out with A., J. and F.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No time for that this year really.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Syria again. Can’t believe how much things have just kept deteriorating in the Middle East since I left as a child.

37. Who did you miss?
My family & my nieces and nephews.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
F.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
Some things come to those who wait. Not all, but some and maybe that’s enough.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?

“When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
well, when exactly do you mean?
see I’ve already waited too long”

How to run a hardware or maker focused hackathon / event

We’ve just finished organising a Demo Day for Intel ® Edison a new maker hardware platform which was great fun.

After years of running Arduino workshops, corporate training days and other hardware centric events at Tinker it seems there is renewed interest in this format. The amount of press around the internet of things means new people are interested in supporting the rapid making / hacking of hardware. Sometimes it’s to promote a new platform or hardware, other times it’s to see if new novel investable ideas are created. After a recent conversation with an intern organising his first hardware event for a well known incubator program, I thought I’d share how we do things here as it might benefit others. This was also prompted by Arial Waldman’s excellent post on organising Science Hack Days.

I’m making a number of assumptions moving forward on this post:

  • You have budget for hardware
  • You have budget for technical experts
  • You are running a 2-3 day event
  • There is a commercial drive behind the event (otherwise you wouldn’t have budget for 1. or 2.)
  • Attendance is free (meaning you will get a mix of attendees, not hand-picked ones)

0. What are you doing?

Before you open an excel spreadsheet and plan your event’s budget and timing, you’ve got to ask yourself what success looks like. Is it that you want new ideas, new prototypes and feedback on a hardware platform or simply entertain people by getting them to make things? Depending on the answer, your event will be very different.

If you want new ideas, forget about the hardware as coming up with an idea, developing a business case around it, and pitching doesn’t require any prototyping. Prototyping will have a role when you want to test your product idea with potential users and validate some of your assumptions. It will take you more than 3 days to do this well and this format is best addressed by longer design workshops.

If you want new prototypes or feedback on a platform read on.

1. Introduce everyone

Before you plunge into a 20 minute introduction, before you make teams, before you even say hello, make sure people have tools to introduce themselves. A sticky badge with their first name will do (corporate badges are often too small to read and make everyone feel like a tradeshow attendee). Then make sure you go around the room and get everyone (team & attendees) to say their name and profession. It’s simple, stupid and so very effective at getting people to acknowledge each other and get the team to think about who might need more or less help.

2. Tools don’t make ideas. 

Organisers often think that by putting people in a room with a 3D printer, a laser cutter and some electronics this will generate great ideas. This is rarely the case.

You should always take the time to actually teach people how to use the tools you’re supplying from scratch on the morning of the first day, levelling the playing field as much as possible and getting everyone to learn something new and talk to each other.

Arduino is still my favorite platform because there is so much documentation and example projects shared by the community.

If you’re teaching people about 3D printing & lasercutting, teach them with something like Tinkercad or get a people like Inition or Razorlab  to do some training.

If you’re a new hardware or software platform provider, really make sure that documentation is available for a total beginner. You never know who your attendees will be, so don’t assume they know either anything about electronics or anything about code. Of you have a bunch of experts in the mix, just make sure they are sat next to each other and they will plough on ahead while you do the introductory bits.

3. Have basic materials

Not everyone will want to build a whole end product, so always make sure you have paper, scissors, glues, knives, cutting mats, a soldering iron and all manners of craft materials to get people going quickly. Play-doh, lego and the usual post-its and pens are also useful. I’ve ended up with a suitcase full of this that I take to events that we are running. It might not be used, but you never want to assume what kinds of ideas people will have.

4. Provide technical support

Providing technical help to attendees is really crucial when you’ve provided new tools. We have always designed events with teams of 2-3 attendees max and one technical expert per 2 teams. It’s a high ratio but you wouldn’t believe how important those people are to your event. Just because an attendee is sat at a computer looking serious, doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. The role of your technical expert is to ask “how’s it going” over and over again and know when to let people get on with it after they’ve pointed them in the right direction. There’s also nothing worse than a technical expert who tries to build the thing for the attendee. It’s about building a sense of confidence in attendees. They are new to this, but once the event is over, they should know how to keep going on their own and know what resources to tap into.

5. Provide documentation

Stop printing pieces of paper, just put all your documentation on github. Even if your attendees have never heard of it, they’ll learn how to use it. Github will be key in building up the documentation needed between the workshop leader and the technical experts. Giving them a chance to add to the documentation and experiment before will make them more ready for questions.

6. Encourage team work but don’t push people into it

Just because you are trying to get a good mix of people, doesn’t mean they want to work with each other or will sync up at all. Get people to share their ideas on an ideas wall or online before the event and let teams naturally happen, or not. You won’t get better ideas if you force interactions between attendees. They’ll feel bossed around like kids.

7. Champion & document ideas

After an event, all the ideas that people are working should be documented and listed on github. People should be able to upload a picture of what they were working on, what they tried to build and the code they used. This is a great way of championing all the attendees and their work.

8. Always close with a demo

Another way of championing people is to get them to present what they have done to the rest of the group. You are closing their experience and making sure they work to a deadline. This is really important in making attendees feel like they’ve achieved something during their time. If you don’t do a closing demo, someone could simply bury themselves in a deep dark problem that might take weeks. If there’s a demo, they know they can’t focus on the deep dark problem and should just get on with getting something to work. Always clap (as Russell says) after each presentation and never give them more than 5-10 minutes to present or you’ll be there all night.

With all this, and the basics (feed them well, give them daylight) you should have a great time and accomplish your aims. Enjoy your hackday!